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from the oceans to the infested gullies

I started my young professional life as a marine biologist and now I am finding myself immersed in the middle of the bush. I am preparing a new lot of land for reforestation. I need to clean it up from the mess that the logging machineries and operators left behind 2.5 years ago. A total devastation of re-growing pines and gums, invasive weeds like the toxic moth plants, the all-overlaying passionfruit, pampas grass form South America, and more. It is hard work. It is hot in the sun, the terrain is unstable, partially covered by abandoned logs, often hidden under 50 cm of grass, partially dug out by wild pigs, steep, crumbling, sliding. Up and down keeps me in physical shape. Then there is the cutting of trees and weeds, with loppers and pruning saw, with hands and machete. Fingers and shoulders aching in the process, and at night. Then there is the poison, the use of herbicides to exterminate the weeds that do not want to give up. In the backpack I carry big trashbags where I collect the fruit pods of moth plants and passionfruit. I cannot leave these behind and get millions of descendant of these pests. They will end up in the deeeep offal-hole.

Then there is the fact that pines regrow, all the time, from leftover cones, millions of them. It is a never ending effort. However, this is also the time of year when I can start seeding the pioneer natives: manuka, kanuka, coprosma seeds that I collected on the home land. Thousands of seeds spread into the wind, with the prayer of “please reproduce, make more of yourself!” – I want to create a forest.

Creating a forest: this is a long term project. I am not young and I will not see the end product, but I will see changes, greener than the devastation left after an apparently unprofitable pine crop, which was nothing but an experiment run to see if one can make cash out of Nature. Now I clean up the chaos left behind to make space for native plants and trees so that people in 30-40 years can walk in shady, welcoming, green native bush, and so that more oxygen can be produced, more CO2 absorbed, more Life supported.

I studied as a Marine Ecologist, I love understanding how Nature incessantly creates intricacy of beings, plants and animals, how these parts become one, one ecosystem, one Earth. My science mates, my mentors, biologists like me understand better than anyone what this (un-payed) work is for. To undo mistakes, to undo overexploitation, to undo messing up the equilibrium of nature and give back. Not many people can see sense in this: no production, no money, crazy work. Investing in Nature however makes to me more sense than investing in money, which comes and go, gains and loses power, a man-made symbol of a Life out of balance.

I never restored a piece of ocean but I collected information, educated, and collated data from many areas of oceans for their proper management and conservation. I never did this on my own, I had colleagues, volunteers, students to work with. Now the job for the forest is single-handed and it feels daunting. 30 hectares of hilly land have some weight of their own, on heels, shoulders, back. I’ve killed 18,400 pines and 871 gum trees, remnants and new generations from the old plantations, as well as 1590 moth plants, 100 whooly nightshade, 97 passionfruit, 810 pampas grass, and am still going, I might be just half way- perhaps. It feels and sounds totally crazy. But it also feels good and it feels right. I know it will reward me - and many others - with joy, peace, plenty of Life.

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